How do Cataracts Form?

Your eye’s lens is supposed to be clear, but certain processes can cause clouding, which is referred to as a cataract. In most cases, cataracts are caused by aging, but genetics can also factor in. Most people will get cataracts at some point, and they generally start developing after the age of 40. The only way to remove cataracts is through surgery. 

How Do Cataracts Form?

Cataracts form when proteins in your eyes start to break down and clump together, causing a buildup that creates an opaque or cloudy spot in your otherwise clear lens. Cataracts typically develop in both eyes, but they will progress independently and won’t always get worse at the same rate. 

How a Cataract Affects Your Vision

The degree to which a cataract affects your vision will depend on its progression and its location on your eye’s lens. Anatomically, the lens is positioned behind the iris (the colored part of your eye). The lens is responsible for focusing light as it passes through your eye, which is why clouding can distort vision.

A cataract may not cause noticeable changes to your vision in the early stages, but as it progresses, the clouding will become denser or more opaque, preventing a greater amount of light from passing through. Over time, the cataract will also spread across a larger area of the lens. 

Since a cataract scatters and blocks light, your vision will degrade as it progresses, You will not be able to see sharply defined images, but instead may experience blurry vision or you may have “blind spots” where portions of your vision are very distorted or blacked out, which is caused by the cataract blocking light in that area.

What Causes Cataracts?

Age is considered to be the leading cause of cataracts, but certain risk factors may speed their progression. These include:

  • Diabetes
  • Excessive UV exposure
  • Smoking
  • Obesity
  • High blood pressure
  • Eye injury
  • Steroid medications
  • Excessive alcohol consumption

Managing risk factors is a good practice, but there is no proven method for preventing cataracts. Once a cataract forms, it can only be removed through surgery. 

What Questions Should I Ask My Eye Care Provider?

If you’re worried you may be developing cataracts or you want to have them removed, here are some questions to ask your eye care professional. 

  • What stage is my cataract in?
  • Am I a candidate for cataract surgery? 
  • What happens if I don’t get cataract surgery? 
  • Can I get cataract surgery on both eyes at once?
  • Will I still need glasses after surgery? At what distance?
  • How do I prepare for surgery? 
  • What happens during the procedure?
  • How long will the surgery take?
  • What can I expect after surgery? What’s the downtime? 

Cataract surgery is a highly successful procedure, but it’s normal to have anxiety. The best way to address it is to ask your doctor so that you can get more information about your health, risk factors, surgical history, or medications you may be taking. 

What Are the Symptoms?

Cataracts develop in four stages and you may have no symptoms at all during stage one, the early stage. By stage two, you may begin to notice changes to your vision, such as:

  • Cloudiness 
  • Blurriness
  • Dim vision
  • Reduced night vision 
  • Sensitivity to light 
  • Fading of colors
  • Yellowing of colors 
  • Double vision in one eye 
  • Glare and “halos” when looking at lights
  • Needing a new glasses prescription often

How Are Cataracts Diagnosed?

In their later stages, cataracts are visible when looking at your eye. However, in order to properly assess and diagnose your cataract, your eye doctor will perform a dilated eye exam. This same exam can allow your eye doctor to detect a cataract even in its earliest stages, before you show any symptoms.

If you are over the age of 60, you should be getting a dilated eye exam at least once every two years. If you or your eye doctor suspects cataracts, you should have one performed sooner rather than later. The exam is simple and painless; all the doctor will do is put some drops in your eye that will widen your pupil so they can look into your eye to check for cataracts and other concerns. 

What’s the Treatment for Cataracts?

The only way to remove a cataract is through surgery. Cataract surgery is a quick and painless procedure that does not typically require general anesthesia. Your doctor will meet with you in advance to discuss the different artificial intraocular lenses (IOL) that can be used to replace your damaged lens. With the right lens choice, you may no longer need to wear corrective lenses after cataract surgery. 

Cataract surgery involves the following.

  1. Your eye doctor will give you medication to help you relax and stay calm. They will then put in eye drops to numb your eye. 
  2. Using a laser or very small instrument, your doctor will make an extremely small opening in your eye so they can gain access to your damaged lens.
  3. Ultrasound waves will be used to break up the damaged lens into smaller pieces, which allows your doctor to gently suction the lens out through the incision.
  4. The same opening will be used to insert a new artificial lens into your eye, which concludes the procedure.

Following cataract surgery, you’ll be asked to rest for a while in a nearby room. You can then go home and expect full recovery in a few weeks. 

Are You Concerned About Cataracts? 

While cataracts are most common in people over 40, you can get them at any age for a variety of reasons. If you’re wondering whether or not you’re predisposed to cataracts due to certain risk factors, or you’re afraid that you already have cataracts, the best thing to do is schedule a dilated eye exam. 

For answers to your questions about cataracts, cataract removal, and keeping your vision healthy, speak to our friendly team at SuraVision. Book a consultation today by calling 713-730-2020 or using our contact page